Best Street Fight: Broadway Bike Lanes and Pedestrian Plazas
If you’d told us a year ago that there would be bike lanes, planters and street furniture along Broadway stretching from Central Park to Union Square, we’d have called you crazy (or worse). The fact that Janette Sadik-Khan, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, has managed to transform arguably the most iconic thoroughfare in the world (sometimes overnight) into a bike-friendly, pedestrian-conscious zone is nothing less than astonishing. Of course, the “greenification” has had mixed reactions. Times Square’s chaos has been further tamed by a plaza that does more for the fat tourist looking to snap a photo than making it any more desirable as a destination. Other bike lanes in Manhattan and Brooklyn are even more contentious, with community activists vowing to reclaim bike lanes back for the all-powerful automobile. Still, the fact that Sadik-Khan has the vision and guts to enact such a crazy plan—even when it does seem kinda dumb—makes us a little giddy. Now, if we can only get that Smart Bike program to work, we’ll be all set.
Best Natural Runway With a Naughty View: High Line at Standard Hotel
The High Line park turned out to be more of a bourgeois promenade—perfect for the stylish to strut above the unclean masses—than an actual park, but we figure we’ll just give it time. We got a taste of the voyeur/exhibitionist possibilities this summer when Standard Hotel patrons decided to show their stuff to the eager spectators below. It makes perfect sense: The hotel straddles the High Line in a concrete span that could excite just about anyone. If it weren’t for all the wonderful new glitzy archi-monuments constructed for the fabulously wealthy along the West Side, however, there wouldn’t be much of a view to ogle. We figure as those condos invariably fill up with mischievous boys and girls fueled by their favorite substances, the place will reek with pheromones. And we want to be there for the next big show.
Best Place to Dump a Date: Union Square
We’ve thought long and hard, polled numerous amorous members of both sexes (and various persuasions) and come up with the perfect solution to any date that’s a dud. End it near Union Square. Not only are there enough crowds morning, noon and night in which you can dodge your date, you have access to enough train lines to make a quick getaway once you’ve broken a heart. Reasonable restaurants and bars abound that you can taint with memories of your soured romance without any fear of ever ruining your favorite joint—which you should reserve for a sure thing. If it’s a first date, and all else fails, say you need to pee in Whole Foods and vanish somewhere beyond the jicama. If that doesn’t do it for you, just make the break via text like all the kids these days.
Best Moment in Bronx Lesbian History: Mott Haven Village Preparatory High School’s Best Couple
The South Bronx isn’t usually seen as the source of progressive politics or social activism. But thanks to Victoria “Vikky” Cruz and Deoine Scott, the young lesbians voted “best couple” by their Mott Haven high school classmates, we experienced a bit of hope during an otherwise tumultuous year for same-sex couples nationwide. The pair met in 10th grade and came out to their friends and classmates together, educating them about gay and lesbian issues. The two are also engaged and would like to get married in New York, they told a reporter. Let’s hope the state legislature can get its act together to make that happen.
Best Backstage Broadway Drama: Spider-Man
Jeremy Piven’s fondness for sushi (and the producers of Speed-the-Plow’s penchant for litigation) seemed like the most scandalous behind-the-scenes tale imaginable this past year—until a little musical called Spider-Man: Turn Off the Lights. Beset with financing problems, things took a shocking turn when the money ran out. Pre-production ground to a halt on Julie Taymor’s $45 million musical, and the contracted actors (including Alan Cumming and Evan Rachel Wood) were released. But then Bono, who wrote the score with The Edge, came through by pulling a Christina Applegate and calling in favors from his rich friends. The show’s back on track, but whether or not that’s a good thing remains to be seen when—and if—previews begin next February.
Best Anchor to Give Sue Simmons a Run for Her Money: Ernie Anastos, Fox Five News
We knew what Sue was up to last year when she accidentally let the f-bomb fly during a live broadcast of WNBC’s nightly news. She was ticked that her co-anchor was apparently talking while she read a promotion for an upcoming segment (she thought it was being taped, not aired live). But Ernie Anastos, the jolly Greek co-anchor of Fox Five’s 10 o’clock broadcast, was definitely in another place when he advised weatherman Nick Gregory to keep doing something to a chicken that is frowned upon by most legal, religious and moral codes. The quip was apparently a reference to an old Purdue chicken commercial. We’re not sure why his brain dug into the ad archives, or how the expletive slipped in while on-air, but the look on Dari Alexander’s face was priceless.
Best Way For The City To Up The Punks: ABC No Rio
Everyone from rude boys to fashion punks to crusties was thrilled when, in 2006, the city sold ABC No Rio its Rivington Street home for the low, low price of $1. It turns out, however, that sometimes you get what you pay for. The building that the collective bought was in need of renovations to the tune of more than $2 million. As most punks know, this is more money than you can make panhandling or even by throwing a rent party. Enter, in the unlikely role of hero, City Councilman Alan Gerson who, in June, arranged for ABC to receive $1.65 million for a new building to house art exhibits, punk shows, the zine library, silk-screening studios and all sorts of other stuff that will help keep the Lower East Side weird. It’s a rare move from people who do all sorts of shady shit with our tax dollars and can manage to turn Broadway into a gigantic lounge-chair parking lot but can’t keep subway stations clean, but it’s a welcome one nonetheless. We still say fuck the man—but maybe now just a little more gently.
Best Hotel Dedicated to Rock-Star Ethos: Ace Hotel
20 W. 29th St. betw. Broadway & 5th Ave., 212-679-2222
We still have fond memories of the ’90s, the days of grunge, dotcoms, raves and trendy hotel bar scenes. But wait! While most people remain stuck on ’80s novelties, it may finally be time to wax nostalgic about last century’s final decade. When we first stepped into the lobby of the Ace Hotel, a transplant from the Pacific Northwest, we felt like we were back in that decade of innocence before blogs, iPhone apps and FOX News. Of course, every time we visit the West Coast we feel like we’re transported back to simpler times, but now the ’90s has planted its flag, claimed its turf and wants to comfort us with graffiti wallpaper, photo booths and dark woods. Yep, that’s right, we’re on the cusp of another decade, so it’s time to fetishize the near past. Thanks, Ace.
Best Bathroom for Misbehaving: Le Souk Harem
510 LaGuardia Pl. at Bleecker St., 212-677-1120
The belly dancers, exotic atmosphere and dimly lit upper bar of Le Souk Harem are enough of an aphrodisiac to put anyone in the mood, and if you can’t wait during that pre-coital cab ride, plan a rendezvous in their restroom. Those looking to leave the bathroom with their hair more fussed than fixed and get their freak on should head past the bar and sofas, where less brave couples might be invested in more innocent displays of affection, and directly to the unisex bathroom. What the restrooms at Le Souk might lack in size, they more than make up for in accessibility—the kind granted by a fire escape. Those too demur to enter together, can take the more stealth option of separately entering the separate bathrooms sandwiching the sink and be just a window and catwalk away from a quickie. Added bonus: If management catches on to your extracurricular activities, you’re just a few rungs from a fast get away.
Best Unlikely Hip Neighborhood : Gowanus
The hookers and drug dealers have packed it in, but there’s still plenty happening in Gowanus. The neighborhood that stretches between Park Slope and Boerum Hall and is named for the stinky, disease-filled canal that runs through it has, in recent years, gained popular music venues like The Bell House, BKLYN Yard and Littlefield, eateries such as Italian bistro Bar Tano and brand-new ramen shop Zu Zu Ramen as well as art galleries Four 11 and Gowanus Studio Space. With more kids priced out of Brooklyn’s traditionally hip neighborhoods, Gowanus seems to be filling up with young, creative types. Give it a few years and Third Avenue will be the new Bedford.
Best Facelift of a 50-Year-Old: Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall
Lincoln Center’s austere campus has never excited us much. Sure, if we want to experience opera or watch a film, we’d schlep to one of the intimidating buildings, feel inadequate for what we decided to wear and then scurry on home. Now we find any reason possible to visit the redone Alice Tully Hall. Designed by Diller Scofidio Renfro, the hall is just the beginning of the much-needed facelift of the institution. We enjoy performances in grimy, dark hovels, sure, but it’s also a treat to sit in a comfy chair and hear all of a musician’s subtleties. Alice Tully is now one sexy broad.
Best Save of a Landmark Drinking Hole: Rudy’s Bar & Grill
627 9th Ave. at W. 44th St., 212-974-9169
We’ve weathered the closing of favorite hangouts before, but this year has been full of menacing rumors and disappointing realities. When we heard that Rudy’s might be on the chopping block—due to a renovation of the backyard and meddling by the Department of Buildings—we were worried. After frantic petitions and more meddling by diehard fans of the joint, the whole kerfuffle was finally cleared up, and Rudy’s appears to be out of danger. Rudy’s manager, Danny DePamphilis, is still making improvements to the backyard, and now that it’s out in the open how much love there is for the ol’ place, we hope we won’t have to be this worried about where we drink for a while.
Best Place to Feel Like Don Draper: Lexington Bar & Books
1020 Lexington Ave. betw. E. 72nd & E. 73rd Sts., 212-717-3902
For a quick trip back to the good old days when civilized folk wore fedoras and smoked indoors, step into Lexington Bar & Books. Lighting is low, drinks are stiff, and the distinguished yet convivial vibe is as palpable as the pungent tobacco that pervades the thick air. As the name alludes, books stock the wooden shelves but, unless you brought a flashlight, they are just for show or the occasional talking point (or pick-up line). The sleek mahogany bar matches the dark leather armchairs, where mostly suit-clad, 40-plus gentlemen enjoy an after-dinner drink and smoke while listening to dulcet jazz. Ladies are sometimes spotted in the company of their cigar aficionado hosts, and younger patrons, still lamenting the odious smoking ban, occasionally enter for the novelty.
Best Place to Hang—Literally: Swing-A-Ring
Hudson Beach at W. 105th St., www.swingaring.com
On a huge expanse of sand in Riverside Park, aka Hudson Beach, stands the only set of traveling rings east of Cali’s Muscle Beach. In fact, after reading about the California rings, Dorlene Kaplan decided New York City needed its own and so she generously funded Swing-A-Ring. Kaplan then sold the idea to the Riverside Park Fund and the park administrator. In place for three years now, the rings are by far the coolest place to (literally) hang out in Riverside Park. Two Swing-A-Rings now exist—one for adults, the other for kids—with each metal support post holding eight to 10 hanging rings spaced 7 to 8 feet apart. Volunteers Ira Gershenhorn and David Scott are often on hand to help children, who stand on an upended trashcan to reach the rings. While the Swing-A-Ring site describes the fitness value of traveling rings, we sense that people are drawn here because it’s just plain fun—for the neighborhood yentas who sit gabbing on the stone amphitheaters to toddlers pawing in the sand and kids flying through the air “with the greatest of ease” (sometimes). Need proof? The annual “Swing-a-Ring” day on the first Saturday of May draws thousands to swing, juggle, sand sculpt, ride unicycles and try other circus arts.
Best Celebrity Construction Project: Madonna’s UES Renovation
As if the Second Avenue subway construction weren’t already enough, Queen Madge is wreaking havoc in the staid hood. She hasn’t made public the extensive renovation plans for her new $32 million, 14-bedroom home at 152 E. 81st St., near Lex. It’ll be a tough job, though, since she has to make it habitable for her, the kids, various trainers, Kabbalah gurus, coffee-makers, the security detail, chefs, agents, stylists, make-up artists and, of course, her rock-hard biceps. But something tells us it won’t take as long as the new subway tunnel. But how many more marriages, relationships and bonds will also be torn up in the process remains to be seen.
Best New Exploited Image for Street Vendors: Michael Jackson RIP T-shirts
In the early ’90s, “X” baseball caps suddenly cropped up across the nation. They represented Malcolm X, of course, and they were a reminder of the struggle for racial equality, and how there’s still a long road ahead. Fast-forward almost two decades and countless fashion trends later (including the ubiquity of Obama iconography), and those same neighborhoods are now drenched in Michael Jackson imagery. Found at bodegas, street vendors and even Target, these T-shirts represent the predictable, bland hum of the en masse, “I was a fan back in the day,” that every super-idol gets post-mortem. Someone’s making a mint on these trashy tees, and it sure as hell isn’t MJ. If you’re tempted to don a wearable tribute to the King of Pop, put on Off the Wall instead and, as Michael’s friend in the White House once admonished, just say no.
Best Discovery of Something That Was Never Lost: Governors Island
This was the year Governors Island finally got some respect. Although it was a military post until last decade and was transferred to the city in 2003, it wasn’t until recently that New Yorkers began to take advantage of what the island can offer us. Approximately a quarter of a million people visited the island this summer and much of that success can be attributed to Leslie Koch, president of the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation. She has proven herself incredibly receptive to the weird, wacky and wild ideas for proposals for activities, all amid scares that the budget for the ferry would be slashed and we couldn’t have accessed the little island south of Lower Manhattan. Creative Time mounted its public art quadrennial on the island, the Dutch shared their exuberant creativity with the New Island Festival and the Saint at Large even threw a big ol’ gay dance party. Just wait, this is only the beginning.
Best Celebrity to Move Back to the City: Courtney Love
We love Ms. Love because, as yesterday’s rebels grow old and sedate, attending galas for once-cutting-edge institutions and making questionable new work, our girl wastes no time smoking in the bathroom, picking fights and behaving every bit as badly as she did when we first fell for her. Add to the scenario daughter Francis Bean, who acts as her foil, and there is not a more enchanting duo. They may just be the Big and Little Edie of this generation.
Best Local Politician Who Can’t Get His Story Straight: John Liu
Already the first Asian American elected to the City Council, John Liu’s on track to become the first Asian American elected to a citywide office if he becomes the city’s next comptroller, aka the CFO of the City, Nov. 5. We’re plenty familiar with Liu due to his penchant for sending what feels like hundreds of emailed press releases a week, and we’re proud of his accomplishments so far. It was the case of the dubious campaign ads in August, however, that had us stumped. Liu’s compelling ads told the story of his immigrant heritage, specifically focused on a moment in his childhood working with his mother in a sweatshop. But then his mom denied ever working in a sweatshop. Liu seemed shocked, confused and many worried his campaign was sunk. But he stayed on message—and prevailed. Many are already whispering of a Liu mayoral campaign in 2013. If that’s going to happen, we just hope he gets the story straight.
Best New Addition to East Village That’s Hard to Hate: Cooper Union’s new academic building
When Thom Mayne and his firm Morphosis were chosen to design the new academic building at Cooper Union, we were excited—but apprehensive. We’d already been duped by the glass Astor Place tower (designed by the late Charles Gwathmey) and could envision the radical architecture becoming another eyesore set to destroy the neighborhood’s rough-and-tumble character. Luckily, the Santa Monica–based architect known for radical ideas that have been embraced by unlikely clients (like the federal government) didn’t let us down. When you turn the corner and catch a glimpse of the massive structure, you’re caught off guard and then transfixed. The perforated steel skin, while elegant, remains tough and brutish. Just as the East Village should remain.
Best Fake Trend Created by Local Author: Speed Shrinking
Sue Shapiro has written several memoirs, taught thousands of aspiring wordsmiths and written countless articles and reviews for just about every English publication imaginable (including several for this one). This year, she published Speed Shrinking, her first novel, and to help promote the book, she concocted the idea of hosting “speed shrinking” events in which therapists and other gurus with books to hock and ideas to advance would give advice in short bursts at bars, book stores and schools. This being a city always hungry for “trends,” actual newspapers picked up on the idea of speed shrinking as a viable alternative if your therapist was away or you just needed a quick dose of advice. We’re really not quite sure of the actual benefits of speed shrinking, or if it will last, but in a land of multi-tasking and myopia, we can certainly see a future in which it continues to spread.
Best Reason to Get Sick on Your Morning Commute: Health Department Fat Ads
In August, the New York City Department of Health took the question: “Are you pouring on the fat?” to the extreme with its ads that tested the gag reflexes of every subway rider in the process (some of you passed with flying colors). In an attempt to make people aware of the effects high-calorie, sugary drinks could have on one’s waistline, images are of a sugary beverage pouring out of a bottle, then turning into fat when it hits the drinking glass. It’s the health department’s hope that the in-your-face graphics will shock people into drinking water instead of a Coke. The ads’ ability to make people lose their breakfasts on the morning commute is just an unintended fringe benefit.
Best Former Press Writers Who Made Good This Year: Amy Sohn, Jonathan Ames and Sam Sifton
It was a banner year for former Press writers. Amy Sohn, who once wrote a sex column for the paper, published Prospect Park West, a novel with sexy mommies, that’s rumored to receive the SATC treatment by Sarah Jessica Parker’s production company. Then there’s HBO’s Bored to Death by Jonathan Ames, who got his start here with his “City Slicker” column that detailed his misadventures in the city. And let’s not forget Times culture editor Sam Sifton, who was named its new food critic, replacing Frank Bruni. Sifton started by writing about food for the Press in the ’90s, was an editor for a time and has had a storied ascent in the city’s mediaverse. While we don’t take credit for any of these talented writers’ accomplishments, we do feel a little proud. Although its ownership—and its political leanings—has changed hands over the years, the New York Press has stayed true to its mission of nurturing bold writers with strong points of view. Here’s to the next decade’s emerging voices.